The 1688 convoys to Bilbao

Bilbao Convoy 1688
The church of San Anton in Bilbao
Bilbao is a port on the Nervión. The
church of San Anton is a landmark
that already existed in 1687.
Ships involved:
Oud Karspel (36)Andries Stilte

1 The importance of convoys to Bilbao

1.1 Port of Bilbao

The port of Bilbao is situated on the river Nervión. In the seventeenth century the Dutch exported to Bilbao: silk and wool fabric, hats, paper, grain, salt and many supplies for shipping. The principal exports of Bilbao were wool, and high quality iron. Furthermore: lemons, oranges, nuts and chestnuts1. Bilbao was therefore a major destination for Dutch shipping, even though it was significantly less important than Cadiz or Setúbal.

1.2 Convoys to Bilbao

All this made Bilbao important enough for the Dutch to risk sending convoys to it throughout the Nine Years War. The convoys were named 'Convoy to Bilbao' or 'Convoy to Biscay'. In effect the convoys often went to Bilbao, San Sebastian and Santander. The naming convention is explained by Bilbao being the most important destination.

The 1688 convoy to Bilbao provided protection against Algiers pirates. It completed its trip before France went to war against the Dutch. The convoy therefore probably sailed much closer to the French coast than later convoys. The challenge of later convoys becomes clear if one considers that the most efficient route was parallel to the French coast, and that San Sebastian was only about 10 kilometers from France. Later convoys would turn into violent affairs.

2 Stilte's Convoy

23 April 1688 Stilte's Outbound Convoy and that of Stilte
Ship Captainnext / notes
Oudkarspel Capt. Andries Stilteto Bilbao
Elisabeth Pieter Grandeto Bilbao
Maria Michiel Langeto Bilbao
St. Pieter Jan Aldersz. Schuytto Bilbao
Koopman van CorelieJacob Barentsz. WiegeSt. Sebastian

2.1 Preparations to leave

On 26 April the ship Maria left Amsterdam for Texel. Its skipper Michiel Lange was to follow. He hoped to sail with the convoy from Bilbao to Texel OHC 27 April 1688. On the morning of 30 April the yacht with the inspectors of the Admiralty of Amsterdam arrived to inspect the warships going to escort to Biscay and the Straits. In the evening the inspectors of the Noorder Kwartier arrived to inspect their warships. Therefore it was expected that the Convoy to Bilboa, that to The Straits and the warships, would all sail with the first fair wind OHC 4 May 1688 In the morning of 4 May VA van Almonde with 14 warships left Texel with a northern wind. The convoys were expected to sail on the 5th OHC 6 May 1688.

2.2 Stilte sails to Bilbao

The convoy to Bilbao was commanded by Captain Stilte. He sailed on 7 May 1688 AC 11 May 1688. It contained 4 merchant ships, and started out in company with Schrijver's convoy to Iskendrun OHC 11 May 1688. One might therefore wonder whether Schrijver commanded both convoys till the western end of the English Channel, but this was not the case. Later on the Gouden Leeuw of Pieter Fonteyn (cf. above) reported that he saw the Bilbao convoy near Beachy Head, and that of Schrijver, including the Setúbal ships, between Beachy Head and the Singles OHC 15 May 1688. By 20 May the convoy had not yet arrived in Bilbao OHC 5 June 1688

2.3 Arrival in Bilbao

In the afternoon of 28 May Captain Stilte arrived in Bilbao with the Maria, Elizabeth and St Pieter. Meanwhile the Koopman van Corielje had arrived in San Sebastian OHC 17 June 1688. There was little cargo to be had in Bilbao. By 17 June skippers Grande and Schuyt were preparing to sail their empty ships home together with Stilte. Michiel Lange would wait for cargo OHC 6 July 1688.

2.4 From Bilbao to Texel

On 29 June the Elizabeth of Grande and the St Pieter of Schuyt left Bilbao for Santona. Michiel Lange could also not get cargo, and wanted to sail to France, but had not succeeded OHC 17 July 1688. By 14 July Stilte had arrived back in Texel after sailing 14 days. He had with him the Elizabeth and St Pieter, both with little cargo. They had left Captain Taelman in Santona OHC 15 July 1688.


After arriving in Texel Stilte waited for orders in Texel, and then went straight back to the fleet that was assembled at Schonevelt. Because we know that in the invasion England fleet Stilte commanded the Oudkarspel(36), we can safely conclude that this was also the ship he commanded on his trip to Bilbao OHC 22 July 1688.

3 Unescorted ships

3.1 Reyne sails to Bilbao

On 24 July 1688 sailed from Texel the St. Clara of Pieter Reyne to Bilbao and the Groote Africaen and the Fluyt de Romeyn both to La Rochel OHC 27 July 1688. On 27 July the St. Clara of Pieter Reyne, was encountered near Beachy Head in the Channel OHC 5 August 1688. On 8 August contrary winds forced it to anchor in Torbay OHC 21 August 1688. On 15 August Michiel Lange wrote from Bilbao that Pieter Reyne had arrived OHC 9 September 1688.

3.2 Reyne and Lange wait in Bilbao

Reyne and Lange expected to both have a full a cargo of wool, but heard (truthful) rumors of France seizing the Dutch ships in its ports OHC 26 October 1688. Having certainty of the French privateering Reyne and others decided to wait for convoy OHC 23 November 1688. The expected cargo of wool did not come in, and so Lange thought about loading chestnuts OHC 7 December 1688.

Meanwhile they were joined by some ships that had left Flushing on 16 October: The Eendracht, Adriaen Eelinck; Vlasblom, Herman Pietersz; Engel, Adriaen Jaspersz; Tyger, Frans Cudde; Meyboom, Bockhoorn and the Samuel, Lambrecht Bartelsen arrived in Bilbao OHC 30 November 1688 Jan Adriaan Eding (above) arrived with Cacao from Middelburg. On 23 December he arrived back in Flushing after sailing 9 days from Bilbao, transporting nuts and chestnuts OHC 1 January 1689

3.3 Lange is captured

In late December or early January the Maria of Michiel de Lange was taken while sailing from San Sebastian, and brought to Le Havre OHC 6 January 1689.

By early January there was news that Reyne had gotten a good cargo of wool, but was still lying in Bilbao OHC 20 January 1688 Reyne contracted to load nuts in Gijon OHC 6 January 1689. C. 13 January 1689 Pieter Reyne left Bilbao for Gijon to load nuts there, and then to continue to Amsterdam OHC 12 February 1688

4 Notes

1) The Hollandsche Koophandel by Pierre Daniel Huet, Amsterdam 1717.